Kenmore Air offers Sightseeing flights that circumnavigate Seattle by seaplane and gives you a unique perspective from above. It’s a thrilling way to see Seattle, and nothing is more exciting than doing it by seaplane.
Flying out of Lake Union, Kenmore Air has been in operation since 1947. It is a family-run business. Bob Munro, Reg Collins, and Jack Mines started the company in an old shingle mill.
Gregg Munro and Leslie Banks continued running the business after Bob died in 2000. Until that point, Bob Munro, although no longer flying, remained working for the company—a total of 54 years.
A seaplane is a small aircraft that sits atop floating pontoons.
While in the water, the craft functions more like a boat than a plane. The pilot must control and navigate it as a boat. After It leaves the dock, he follows channels, buoys, and Right of Way Rules For Boating. Watching out for other boats, water skiers, jet skis, and potentially other aircraft operators, takes all the pilot’s concentration.
With that said, riding in an airplane on the water is thrilling. The small plane seats about 10 passengers, each with a window seat. Therefore, everyone gets a bird’s eye view.
The Journey Begins–Sightseeing Seattle by Seaplane
The plane taxis around the boat traffic, lining up for take-off, and the water splashes up and around the pontoons. The swish and bumping sound as the hulls slice through the water may be concerning for some, but rest assured, it is normal. Soon the ride gets smoother as it approaches take-off speed, and the pontoon is “on step,” literally skimming across the top of the water’s surface.
The water sounds go silent as the wings lift it into the air. Now it behaves like any other general aviation plane.
You watch the objects on the ground get smaller as the craft gains altitude. The lake area turns into a tableau dotted with white sails and long thin white wakes of powered boats. The expanse of green surrounding the lake is interrupted by bridges and buildings.
The Flight Plan
The flight takes you over Gas Works Park, the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant. You might even glimpse the Gates Estate just as you pass over The Floating Bridge.
The route is a long slow loop over Elliot Bay, along the waterfront, around the lighthouse, back towards the bay, around the Space Needle, and finally back to the starting point. I get goosebumps seeing the Space Needle at eye-level.
The city skyline shimmers in the sunlight, reflecting off the glass, earning the nickname “Emerald City.”
The landing is just the reverse of the take-off, gliding onto the surface, dropping off step, and taxiing through the channel, ultimately tying off at the dock.
Kenmore Air is professional, the staff courteous, and the adventure is exhilarating.
If you go:
Reservations are a must.
Flights currently operate Monday-Thursday at 10:30 am, 11:30 am, and 12:30 pm.
Ready to book? Choose a one-way flight from Seattle/Lake Union to Scenic-Lake Union.